What to do with 36TB on my Mac?

(Back of) Western Digital's Thunderbolt Duo (from their website)
(Back of) Western Digital's Thunderbolt Duo (from their website)

Western Digital (WD) just released their new Digital MyBook Thunderbold Duo the other day and it features 2-2TB or -3TB disks and of course you can daisy chain up to 6 of these together just in case, for up to 36TB on a Mac.

I have been happy with my desktop storage which has been running about 80% full.  Plus I have a 1TB time machine external drive for online backups which I use more than I care to admit.  But what the heck am I going to do with 36TB.

Enter Apple TV

Well, now that the new Apple TV is out and it supports 1080p video that problem might be solved.   I am starting to think of transfering my entire DVD/BlueRay collection to digital format and loading it all on iTunes. That way I could use Airplay and Apple TV to play it to a TV.

This is where the 6 to 36TB of storage could come in handy.  Especially if I wasn’t interested in streaming everything off of iCloud and having a local iTunes repository onsite for all my videos.

Digital video for the iPad

Today, I don’t have a lot of videos on my desktop, mostly ones I wanted to view on my  iPad so, they are highly compressed and only take up about 1GB per video (Handbrake encoded from DVDs).

I am thinking the new 1080p iTunes encoded videos would take up more space at least 4-5GB per video but would still be considerably better than 9GB for DVD and ~36GB for BluRay, high definition videos.

Given current storage I could probably handle converting my current iPad videos over to the 1080p version (if I actually owned them in hi-def) but if I wanted to put the rest of my video library on my desktop I don’t have enough space.

Bulk storage meet the Mac

Then WD came out with their new Thunderbolt Duo drives.  It seems to have it all, Thunderbolt I/O at 10Gbps, with all the storage I could possibly need.  Presumably the 2 or 3TB drives are 5400 or 7200 SATA 3.0 drives.  But they are user swappable, so could concievably be changed out to whatever comes out next but probably in pairs.

Of course with SATA 3.0 they can only go 6Gbps to the disks, but it’s not a bad match to have 2 drives per single bi-directional Thunderbolt channel.  Although whether 6 of these  daisy chained on a single Thunderbolt cable would generate decent performance is another question.  Then again, how much performance can one Mac use?

I suppose my next steps are to upgrade my Mac to hardware that supports Thunderbolt, get Apple TV, buy a Duo drive or two and then start encoding my DVD/BluRay library.

But that’s too logical, instead maybe I’ll just get Apple TV and give iCloud a try, at least for awhile and save the WD Duo for the next evolution.  Maybe by then WD have come out with their 4TB drives, providing 8TB per Duo.


Our long romance with Apple technology


Lisa 2/5 by MattsMacintosh (cc) (from Flickr)
Lisa 2/5 by MattsMacintosh (cc) (from Flickr)

We all heard last night of the passing of Steve Jobs.  But rather than going over his life I would like to here discuss some of the Apple products I have used over my life and how they affected our family.


I don’t know why but I never got an Apple II. In fact the first time I saw one in use was in the early 80’s. But it certainly looked nifty.

But I was struck with love at first sight when I saw the Lisa, a progenitor of the Mac.  I was at a computer conference in the area which had a number of products on display but when I saw the Lisa I couldn’t see anything else.  It had a 3.5″ floppy drive which was encased in hard plastic, hardly ever considered a floppy anymore.  But the real striking aspect was its screen, a white background, bit mapped screen that sported great black and white graphics.

At the time, I was using IBM 3270 terminals which had green lettering on a dark screen and the only graphics were ones made with rows and columns of asterisks.  To see the graphics pop to life on the Lisa, different font options, what you see is what you get was just extraordinary at the time.  The only downside was its $10K price.  Sadly we didn’t buy one of these either.

Mac worship

Then the 1984 commercial came out in the superbowl spot.  The one where Apple was going to free the computing world from the oppression of big brother with the introduction of the first Macintosh computer.

We got our hands on one soon after and my wife used it for her small accounting business and just loved it.   Over time as she took on partners their office migrated to business applications that were more suited for PCs but she stayed on the Mac long after it was sub-optimal, just because it was easy to use.


Apple Fat Mac by Accretion Disc (cc) (From Flickr)
Apple Fat Mac by Accretion Disc (cc) (From Flickr)

Ultimately, she moved to a PC  taking her Fat Mac home to be used there instead.  Over the next decade or so we updated the Mac to a color screen and a desktop configuration but didn’t really do much with it other than home stuff.


Then the iMac’s came out. We latched onto the half basketball one which had a screen protruding out of it.  We used this for some video and photo editing and just loved it.  Video upload and editing took forever but there was nothing else out there that could even come close.


Our 1st iMac
Our 1st iMac

I ended up using this machine the first few years after I left corporate America but also bought a Mac lap top, encased in aluminum for my business trips.    Both these ran PowerPC microprocessor but eventually ran an early generation of Mac OSX.


A couple of years later we moved on to the all-in-one, Intel based, desktop iMac’s and over time updated to bigger screens, faster processing and more storage.  We are still on iMac desktops for home and office use today.

iPhone infatuation

In 2008 we moved from a dumb cell phone to a smart iPhone 3G.  We wanted to wait until the world phone came out which supported GSM.

But this was another paradigm shift for me. When working in the corporate world I had a blackberry and could use it for contacts, email, and calendar but seldom did anything else on it.  And in fact, at the time I used a PalmPilot for a number of business applications, games, and other computing needs.

When the iPhone3G came out, both the PalmPilot and dumb cell phone were retired and we went completely Apple for all our cell phone needs.  Today, I probably scan email, tweet, and do a number of other applications on my iPhone almost as often as I do them on the iMac.  Over time we moved one or the other of us to the 3Gs and 4 and now the children are starting to get hand me down iPhones and love them just as well.

iPad devotion

Then in May of 2010, we bought an iPad.  This was a corporate purchase but everyone used it.  I tried to use it to replace my laptop a number of times (see my posts To iPad or Not to iPad parts 1, 2, 3 & 4) and ultimately concluded it wouldn’t work for me.  We then went out and got a Mac Airbook and now the iPad is mainly used to check email do some light editing as well as gaiming, media and other light computing activities.

The fact is, sitting on our living room couch, checking email, twitter and taking noteshas made using all these tools that much easier. When we saw the iPad2 we liked what we saw but it took so long for it to become available in the stores that we had lost all gadget lust and are now waiting to see what the next generation looks like when it comes out.


All in all almost 30 years with Apple products both in the home and at work have made me a lifelong advocate.

I never worked for Apple but have heard that most of these products were driven single-mindly by Steve Jobs.  If that was the case, I would have to say that Steve Jobs was a singular technical visionary, that understood what was then possible and took the steps needed to make it happen.  In doing that, he changed computing forever and for that I salute him.

Steve Jobs RIP

(SBIR NGA11-002) Novel Methods of Interacting with Overhead Imagery

Chernobyl, April 2009 by NASA Goddard Photo (cc) (From Flickr)
Chernobyl, April 2009 by NASA Goddard Photo (cc) (From Flickr)

I sometimes look over the latest SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) topics that come out to see if there’s anything interesting. Normally the DOD SBIRs (Army, Navy, Air Force, etc. agencies) have some way out stuff they are looking to fund.

Better photo analysis

Something about this National GeoSpatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) SBIR topic caught my eye. Essentially what they are looking for is more ways to interact with images that are taken from overhead.

In the old days, film would be laid on a light table and a scope would be hauled over a spot to examine it in detail. As the whole photo was in front of the analyst, they had before them an entire overview of the spot to lend context to their detailed analysis.

Today, this is all done on desktop view stations using mouse/tracking pads for photo manipulation and examination. However, this approach limits analyst activities to using one or another hand on a 2D surface to analyze a scene. What NGA is looking for is a better approach that uses more of a person’s capabilities to help navigate and analyze a scene in detail.

Enter the iPad

I can’t help but wonder if this couldn’t be an application for the iPad.

I foresee an approach where the iPad is used as a sort of magnifying glass for a photo/image using a a projection of the scene on a floor or a table. The analyst positions the iPad over the scene to view a particular portion in detail. The iPad could be on a suspension system which records the movements in 3d and could provide precise relative positioning of the iPad to the photo to detect where on the scene the iPad is positioned and magnify the view. Of course the analyst could use the standard iPad hand gestures to zoom in or out in the scene. Possibly, the iPad vertical or z-position could zoom in or out of the whole scene leaving magnification the same and then other orientations could move the scene underneath the iPad/analyst (angle relative to the scene).

Using a suspension system is probably easiest and to interface with the iPad app but there’s no reason some sort of WiFi or GPS augmented/detailed location triangulation couldn’t provide the same sorts of information. It would seem to me that providing an X,Y, and Z location could be had with such a system and perhaps even the orientation of the screen could be supplied to provide a proper overlay of the scene being shown.

The nice thing about such a system (without the suspension) is that it would potentially work for multiple analysts using multiple iPads and possibly other IOS devices. Such a capability would not be unlike what was available with real film and magnifying glasses.The other advantage to having the iPad or any tablet above a simulated light table is that the analyst could look around the iPad to see more context if needed.

One concern might be the size of the iPad screen but I am sure this could be changed with the right incentive. Of course now that Android tablets are out’ another possibility is to use one of these. But I am not sure how the hand gestures work with the Android tablets.

So what’s an SBIR program

SBIRs are research topics that the Federal government wish to fund. The government sets aside 2% of their R&D budget ($Bs) to devote to small businesses (<500 employees).

I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing an SBIR but I found the effort to do a proposal to be significant and after 7 submissions on different topics with 0 successes, I stopped. However, I still find some of the topics interesting reading.

Commercial applications for a tablet magnifyer

I suppose there are plenty of other opportunities for such a device in photo analysis. The device/app would be useful for commercial satellite imagery, lithographic prints of electronic circuitry, and any large format photographic work that required detailed analysis. In any event, now that 16M pixel cameras are becoming common place it would seem to be a growing market.



To iPad or not to iPad – part 4

Apple iPad (wi-fi) (from apple.com)
Apple iPad (wi-fi) (from apple.com)

I took the iPad to another conference last month. My experience the last time I did this (see To iPad or not to iPad – part 3) made me much more leary, but I was reluctant to lug the laptop for only a 2-day trip.

Since my recent experience, I have become a bit more nuanced and realistic with my expectations for iPad use on such trips. As you may recall, I have an iPad without 3G networking.

When attending a conference and using a laptop, I occasionally take a few notes, do email, twitter, blog and other work related items. With my iPad I often take copius notes – unclear why other than it’s just easier/quicker to get out of my backpack/briefcase and start typing on. When I take fewer notes usually I don’t have a table/desk to use for the iPad and keyboard.

As for the other items email, twitter, and blogging, my iPad can do all of these items just fine with proper WiFi connectivity. Other work stuff can occasionally be done offline but occasionally requires internet access, probably ~50:50.

iPhone and iPad together

I have found that an iPhone and iPad can make a very useable combination in situations with flaky/inadequate WiFi. While the iPad can attempt to use room WiFi, the iPhone can attempt to use 3G data network to access the Internet. Mostly, the iPhone wins in these situations. This works especially well when WiFi is overtaxed at conferences. The other nice thing is that the BlueTooth (BT) keypad can be paired with either the iPad or the iPhone (it does take time, ~2-5 minutes to make the switch, so I don’t change pairing often).

So at the meeting this past month, I was doing most of my note taking and offline work items with the iPad and blogging, tweeting and emailing with the iPhone.

If the iPad WiFi was working well enough, I probably wouldn’t use the iPhone for most of this. However, I find that at many conferences and most US hotels, WiFi is either not available in the hotel room or doesn’t handle conference room demand well enough to depend on. Whereas, ATT’s 3G network seems to work just fine for most of these situations (probably because, no one is downloading YouTube videos to their iPhone).

A couple of minor quibbles

While this combination works well enough, I do have a few suggestions to make this even better to use,

  • Mouse support – Although, I love the touch screen for most tasks, editing is painful without a mouse. Envision this, you are taking notes, see an error a couple of lines back, and need to fix it. With the iPad/iPhone, one moves your hand from keypad to point to the error on the screen to correct it. Finger pointing is not as quick to re-position cursors as a mouse and until magnification kicks in obscures the error, leading to poor positioning. Using the BT keypad arrow keys are more accurate but not much faster. So, do to bad cursor positioning, I end up deleting and retyping many characters that weren’t needed. As a result, I don’t edit much on the iPad/iPhone. If a BT mouse (Apple’s magic mouse) would pair up with the iPad&iPhone editing would work much better. Alternatively, having some like the old IBM ThinkPad Trackpoint in the middle of a BT keypad would work just fine. Having the arrow keys respond much faster would even be better.
  • iPad to iPhone file transfer capability – Now that I use the iPad offline with an online iPhone, it would be nice if there was some non-Internet way to move data between the two. Perhaps using the BT’s GOEB capabilities to provide FTP-lite services would work. It wouldn’t need high bandwidth as typical use would be to only move a Pages, Numbers, or Keynote file to the iPhone for email attachment or blog posting . It would be great if this were bi-directional. Another option is supporting a USB port but would require more hardware. A BT file transfer makes more sense to me.
  • iPad battery power – Another thing I find annoying at long conferences is iPad battery power doesn’t last all day. Possibly having BT as well as WiFi active may be hurting battery life. My iPad often starts running out of power around 3pm at conferences. To conserve energy, I power down the display between note taking and this works well enough it seems. The display comes back alive whenever I hit a key on the BT keypad and often I don’t even have to retype the keystrokes used to restart the display. More battery power would help.


So great, all this works just fine domestically, but my next business trip is to Japan. To that end, I have been informed that unless I want to spend a small fortune in roaming charges, I should disable iPhone 3G data services while out of country. As such, if I only take my iPad and iPhone, I will have no email/twitter/blog access whenever WiFi is unavailable. If I took a laptop at least it could attach to an Ethernet cable if that were available. However, I have also been told that WiFi is generally more available overseas. Wish me luck.

Anyone know how prevalent WiFi is in Tokyo hotels and airports and how well it works with iPhone/iPad?

Other comments?

What’s wrong with the iPad?

Apple iPad (wi-fi) (from apple.com)
Apple iPad (wi-fi) (from apple.com)

We have been using the wi-fi iPad for just under 6 months now and I have a few suggestions to make it even easier to use.


Aside from the problem with lack of Flash support there are a few things that would make websurfing easier on the iPad:

  • Tabbed windows option – I use tabbed windows on my desktop/laptop all the time but for some reason on the iPad Apple chose to use a grid of distinct windows accessible via a Safari special purpose icon.  While this approach probably makes a lot of sense for the iPhone/iPod, there is little reason to only do this on the iPad.  There is ample screen real-estate to show tabs selectable with the touch of a finger.  As it is now, it takes two touches to select an alternate screen for web browsing, not to mention some time to paint the thumbnail screen when you have multiple web pages open.
  • Non-mobile mode – It seems that many websites nowadays detect whether one is accessing a web page from a mobile device or not and as such, shrink their text/window displays to accommodate their much smaller display screen.  With the iPad this shows up as a wasted screen space and takes more than necessary screen paging to get to data that retrievable on a single screen with a desktop/laptop.  Not sure whether the problem is in the web server or the iPad’s signaling what device it is, however it seems to me that if the iPad/Safari app could signal to web servers that it is a laptop/small-desktop, web browsing could be better.

Other Apps

There are a number of Apps freely available on the iPhone/iPod that are not available on the iPad without purchase.  For some reason, I find I can’t live without some of these:

  • Clock app – On the iPhone/iPod I use the clock app at least 3 times a day.  I time my kids use of video games, my own time to having to do something, how much time I am willing/able to spend on a task, and myriad other things.  It’s one reason why I keep the iPhone on my body or close by whenever I am at home.  I occasionally use the clock app as a stop watch and a world clock but what I really need on the iPad is a timer of some sort.  I really have been unable to find an equivalent app for the iPad that matches the functionality of the iPhone/iPod Clock app.
  • Calculator app – On the iPhone/iPod I use the calculator sporadically, mostly when I am away from my desktop/office (probably because I have a calculator on my desk).  However, I don’t have other calculators that are easily accessible throughout my household and having one on the iPad would just make my life easier.  BTW, I ended up purchasing a calculator app that Apple says is equal to the iPhone Calc App which works fine but it should have come free.
  • Weather app – This is probably the next most popular app on my iPhone.  I know this information is completely available on the web, but by the time I have to enter the url/scan my bookmarks it takes at least 3-4 touches to get the current weather forecast.  By having the Weather app available on the iPhone it takes just one touch to get this same information.  I believe there is some way to transform a web page into an app icon on the iPad but this is not the same.

IOS software tweaks

There are some things I think could make IOS much better from my standpoint and I assume all the stuff in IOS 4.2 will be coming shortly so I won’t belabor those items:

  • File access – This is probably heresy but, I would really like a way to be able to cross application boundaries to access all files on the iPad.  That is, have something besides Mail, iBook and Pages be able to access PDF file, and Mail, Photo, and Pages/Keynote be able to access photos. Specifically, some of the FTP upload utilities should be able to access any file on the iPad.  Not sure where this belongs but there should be some sort of data viewer at the IOS level that can allow access to any file on the iPad.
  • Dvorak soft keypad – Ok, maybe I am a bit weird, but I spent the time and effort to learn the Dvorak keyboard layout to be able to type faster and would like to see this same option available for the iPad soft keypad.  I currently use Dvorak with the iPad’s external BT keyboard hardware but I see no reason that it couldn’t work for the soft keypad as well.
  • Widgets – The weather app discussed above looks to me like the weather widget on my desktop iMac.  It’s unclear why IOS couldn’t also support other widgets so that the app developers/users could easily create use their desktop widgets on the iPad.

iPad hardware changes

There are some things that scream out to me for hardware changes.

  • Ethernet access – I have been burned before and wish not to be burned again but some sort of adaptor that would allow an Ethernet plug connection would make the tethered iPad a much more complete computing platform.  I don’t care if such a thing comes as a BlueTooth converter or has to use the same plug as the power adaptor but having this would just make accessing the internet (under some circumstances) that much easier.
  • USB access – This just opens up another whole dimension to storage access and information/data portability that is sorely missing from the iPad.  It would probably need some sort of “file access” viewer discussed above but it would make the iPad much more extensible as a computing platform.
  • Front facing camera – I am not an avid user of FaceTime (yet) but if I were, I would really need a front camera on the iPad.  Such a camera would also provide some sort of snapshot capability with the iPad (although a rear facing camera would make more sense for this).  In any event, a camera is a very useful device to record whiteboard notes, scan paper documents, and record other items of the moment and even a front-facing one could do this effectively.
  • Solar panels – Probably off the wall, but having to lug a power adaptor everywhere I go with the iPad is just another thing to misplace/loose.  Of course, when traveling to other countries, one also needs a plug adaptor for each country as well.  It seems to me having some sort of solar panel on the back or front could provide adequate power to charge the iPad would be that much simpler.


Well that’s about it for now.   We are planning on taking a vacation soon and we will be taking both a laptop and the iPad (because we can no longer live without it).  I would rather just leave the laptop home but can’t really do that given my problems in the past with the iPad.  Some changes described above could make hauling the laptop on vacation a much harder decision.

As for how the iPad fares on the beach, I will have to let you know…

To iPad or not to iPad – part 3

Apple iPad (wi-fi) (from apple.com)
Apple iPad (wi-fi) (from apple.com)

Well I did take the iPad and BlueTooth (BT) keypad to a short conference a couple of weeks ago and it was a disaster unlike what I envisioned in Parts 1 & 2 of this saga.  It turns out that some WiFi logins don’t work with the iPad (not sure if this is “Flash” issue or not).  In any event, the iPad was rendered WiFi-less during the whole conference which made for an unconnected experience to say the least (recall that I don’t own a 3G version).

The hotel used T-Mobile for their WiFi connection.  I must have created my account at least 3 times and tried to log-in afterward at least 5 times (persistance occasionally pays but not this time). Each time the login screen hung and I never got in.  The conference had a different WiFi supplier but it had the same problem only this time all I had to do was to sign into the service with a conference supplied SSID&password.  No such luck.  The hotel gave me two free WiFi card keys for T-Mobile but I can’t use them.

I even tried some of the tricks that are on the web to get around this problem but none worked. Nuts!

The blog post from hell

Of course, I didn’t plan to write a blog post at the conference but I had the time and the muse struck.  So I whipped out my trusty iPhone, paired the BT keypad with the iPhone, used Notes and WordPress App (WP, available free) to create a new blog post.  I power typed it into the iPhone Notes app and copied and pasted into WP’s new post window.

I was always curious how to add media to posts via the WP app but anything on the iPhone including the photo library and camera photos were accessible as new media to be added to any post.  I had used my iPhone to earlier take some pictures from the conference and easily added these to the post.  The WordPress app uses the more primitive editing window (not WYSIWYG) but that was ok as I didn’t have a lot of fancy text layout.  What’s funny is that saving on the WP app was not the same as uploading it to my blog.  And once uploaded you had to change the post status to Published to get it externally visible.

Another option would have been to use the web and update the blog post through WordPress on Safari. I  can’t recall but last time when I used Safari & WordPress there were some scrolling incompatibilities (inability to scroll down into the post – flash maybe) and there were other nuisances, so I decided to try the WP app this time.

The only problem with using the iPhone & WP app to enter the post was that it was hard to check spellings and see the whole post to edit it properly.  Only really got to see a couple of (short) lines at a time in the iPhone WP app window and the WP app preview was not all that useful.

Needless to say, the post was published with numerous typos, mis-spellings, grammatical faux pas, etc. (so what’s different Ray?).   A few readers caught the issues and DMed me on Twitter which I picked up later that night.  I tried my best to fix them but it still had problems a day later when I got to my desktop.  For some unknown reason, it became my most  popular post – go figure.

Using the iPhone at the conference

Of course the iPhone 4 worked fine for emails, twitter, facebook and other social media given its screen and soft keypad limitations during the conference.  And I was still able to take notes with the iPad I just couldn’t send them anyplace and would have liked to insert them into the post as an outline but couldn’t be done.

There is just no way to get data out of an iPad without WiFi or 3G access.  Maybe if I could take a screen shot with the iPhone and then use an OCR app to interpret it into a Notes item and then I could get the text into iPhone – but I didn’t have an OCR app at the time. Also, it smacks of a Rube Goldberg contraption.


I would say the WP app on the iPad looks a lot better than the one on the iPhone but much of that is due to the increased screen space.  If everything was working fine I probably wouldn’t have had as many problems using iPad WP app to enter in the post.  Of course I would have had to mail the photos from the iPhone to the iPad to enter them into the post but this is standard practice with the iPad…

There’s another conference coming up (it’s conference season here in the US) and I am NOT taking the iPad. Too bad, my back hurts already just thinking about it.  I foresee either a 3G iPad or the Mac Air laptop sometime in my near future but for now on it’s lugging laptops.

Just not sure if I shouldn’t take the BT keypad to take notes on the iPhone!?

PS. Saw Rob Peglar and he had a Verizon Dongle that provided a local WiFi for his iPad and 4 other “close” friends.  Maybe that’s what I should invest in?

To iPad or not to iPad – part 2

iPad with BlueTooth Keyboard
iPad with BlueTooth Keyboard

(Length post warning – 1200+ words)

We had discussed using the iPad in a prior post and although, it was uncertain up to the last minute, I ended up taking the iPad to a conference early this month.  My uncertainty was all related to getting our monthly newsletter out.

The newsletter is mainly a text file  but it links to a number of Storage Intelligence (StorInt(tm) reports) PDFs which reside on my website.  Creating and editing these documents is done using Microsoft Word.  Oftentimes the edits to these documents involve tracked changes which aren’t handled very well by iPad’s Pages app (they’re all accepted).

In addition, these .DOC files are converted to .PDFs and uploaded to the website.  While Pages handles importing Doc files and publishing PDF files from them, I am still unclear how to upload a Pages PDF file to a website. There are many FTP apps for the iPad/iPhone but none seem able to upload a PDF file out of Pages App.

All this was going to require the use of a laptop but I finally got all the file edits in and before I left, was able to send out the newsletter.

Twitter troubles

While at the conference I noticed that there really isn’t a proper Twitter client for the iPad.  Most desktop/laptop Twitter clients allow one to see their Twitter stream while composing a Tweet.  But the free Twitter/TweetDeck/Twitteriffic Apps on the iPad all seem to want to obscure the Twitter stream(s) when one enter’s a new tweet – probably assuming one’s using the soft keypad which would obscure the stream anyway.  Nonetheless, such actions make responding to Twitter queries more difficult than necessary.

Docs debacle

As always, loading up my current working set (client information, office doc’s, PDFs, etc.) was cumbersome. I have taken to using a special email address, only used for this purpose and creating one email per client which works alright.

Working on a project with iPad Pages App worked ok, but:

  • The font/special characters changes between .Doc and Pages files seems awkward.  For example, I was using the large bullet on Pages and when I transformed this file to a DOC file, the bullet became HUGE.
  • Also the font that Pages uses defaults to something different than Microsoft Word’s defaults.
  • Watermark images didn’t seem to be as transparent when converting between Doc’s and Pages

Mostly these were nuisances that I had to deal with when importing a file from iPad to desktop or vice versa.

However, working on one project I realized I needed some metrics I normally keep in a spreadsheet on my desktop/laptop.  I ended up calling home office and walking my associate through accessing the information and telling me what I needed to know.  I also asked them to send that spreadsheet to me so that I would have it for future reference.

BlueTooth blessings/bunglings

At the conference I was blessed with a table to sit at during the keynotes (passing myself off as a blogger) which made using the BlueTooth (BT) keypad and iPad much easier.  I also used the combination on the airplane on the way home and found the combination much more flexible than a laptop.  Although it’s unclear whether this would work as well sitting on my lap in normal conference seating.

Also I really wish there was some sort of other indicators/light(s) on the BT keypad.  It only has one green led and this makes for rather limited communications.  I tried to connect it to the iPad on the plane ride out but it failed.  I thought perhaps the batteries had run down and needed to be replaced.  When I got to my destination I tried again after looking up what the BT keypad green led and it worked just fine.  FYI:

  • A flashing green led means the BT keypad is pairing with a target devicep
  • To turn the BT keypad on, push and hold the side button until the green led starts to blink.
  • To turn the BT keypad off, push and hold the side button until the green led comes on and eventually off.

For some reason this was difficult to find online but it was probably in the printed doc that came with the keyboard (filed away and never seen again).  More lights might help, like green for on/yellow for discoverable, red for (going) off.  Or maybe if I just need to use it more often. I may have tried to pair it with my iPhone which didn’t help  (can’t be sure, also unclear how to clear it’s prior pairing).

Nevertheless, it might make sense to carry some extra batteries and/or their battery charger for just these types of problems.  There were quite a few people who commented on the BT keyboard/iPad combination.  They seemed unaware that it could be used with the iPad

Spellcheck saga

The other problem I had was with the iPad’s spell checker.  It turns out there are two levels of spell checking in the iPad and they are both active within Pages.  One can be disabled at the Pages Tools=>Check Spelling and the other is under iPad settings at General=>Keyboard=>Auto-Correction.   I was able to quickly find the Pages version but it took some effort to uncover the Keyboard one.

Nonetheless, while pounding in conference notes, I often employ vendor acronyms.  Oftentimes the spell checker/auto-corrector would transform these acronyms to something completely different.  Of course my typing is not perfect, so my other issue is that I miss-type words, which after auto-correction had little relation to what I was trying to type.

I realize that this is an attribute of soft keypad corrections, probably coming from the iPhone where often people mis-type due to the size of the keys.  However, when using the iPad and especially when using the BT keypad it would be nice if auto-correction was turned off, by default.

Other iPad incredulity

I was surprised to see some analysts with both an iPad and a laptop (and probably an iPhone/Blackberry).  Personally, I can’t see why anyone would want both other than for more screen space.  But I was a bit jealous when I had to change Apps to tweet something or check email/websites while inputing notes in real time.

Also, I was afraid depending on hotel/conference WIFI would place me at a disadvantage to other analysts/bloggers.  Ultimately, I found that for my use of internet (mostly for Twitter and email) during conferences, WIFI was adequate and I always had my iPhone if it didn’t work.

After 2hrs+ of keynotes and another 2hrs+ of presentations, I was running low on iPad power.  So, I started to power the iPad off between notes and tweets.  Funny thing, all I had to do to power on the screen was to start typing on the BT keypad – cool.  As I recall, it occasionally missed the first key stroke or so but worked fine after that.  Following lunch about an hour later, I pulled out my power cord extension and plugged it into the table outlet and kept it on for the rest of the day.  Thankfully, I remembered to bring the extension cord (that came with the laptop charger).

Well that’s about it, I have another short conference next week and will probably try again to bring the iPad but that pesky monthly newsletter is due out again…

To iPad or not to iPad?

iPad (from wikipedia.org)
iPad (from wikipedia.org)

I am going to a big conference next week, 2 full days out of the office. In times of yore, I would haul my trusty Macbook along and lugging it with me on both days as I move from pavilion to briefing hall, from lunch back to pavilion and from beer hall to bed.

A couple of months ago, I tried using an iPad for a different conference. I purchased an Apple Bluetooth (BT) keyboard and carried it with the iPad for most of the show.  With the BT keypad, power input was just as fast as on the laptop and even faster as I didn’t need to boot anything up.

The other nice thing about the BT keyboard with the iPad is you have fine cursor controls (arrow keys) which can be used to position input pointer.  I did find having to take my hand off the keyboard and touch the screen for some clicking action disconcerting and there were some iPad applications that didn’t handle the arrow keys appropriately but other than that, it worked great for power input, answering emails, and web searches.

The internal, soft iPad keyboard worked ok but wasn’t nearly as fast and didn’t support Dvorak.  Also the soft keyboard in portrait mode only provides 6 lines of pages text which makes power input with feedback more difficult.  In any case, I would use it to rip off quick emails, tweets, and other short stuff which worked well enough. I still took notes on paper (probably to old now to take notes on the iPad/laptop).  Having the keyboard available with a moments delay, made it easy to decide to take it out to use it when I had the time or leave it in the backpack when I didn’t.

Another positive note was that the iPad took up very little desk space.  Most briefing halls nowadays have these smallish retractable desk tops that can barely hold a legal pad let alone a laptop.  The iPad fit these postage stamp desktops just fine.

Not sure how to quantify the weight advantage of the iPad+BT Keyboard vs. Macbook without weighing them but it is significant.  Given all the junk I carry along with the laptop vs. the iPad+BT keyboard, the iPad/BT keyboard wins hands down.  It’s almost like I am not carrying a computer at all.

Problems with using the iPad

There are a couple of web applications (e.g., Wordress visual editor) that seem dependent on flash to work properly, which made using the iPad to create blog posts problematic.  Also, scrolling in WordPress post editor seems to be a flash application as well which made dealing with any long post edits problematic at best.  Wordpress has an iPhone/iPad application which is just as good as the non-visual editor in web-based WordPress which comes in handy at these times.

Now in all honesty, I haven’t tried these in a while and these may not be flash issues as much as iPad issues. Nonetheless, I will guarantee that you will run into some websites that you use in your daily activities that use flash and won’t work.  With the iPad you just will need to forego these websites and find alternatives.

In the office I am a heavy TweetDeck user.  For some reason this application doesn’t work that well for the iPad. I have the latest version and all but find using Twitterific or the official Twitter App a better solution on the iPad.

I purchased the WiFi version of the iPad and iPad’s do not come with Ethernet plug-ins.   Now most conference centers these days have WiFi, but it may not always work that well.  Also some hotels only have WiFi in certain locations and not in the hotel rooms.  All this makes having internet access somewhat sporadic. But you can always buy the 3G version if you want to and I always have my iphone for internet access in a pinch (assuming ATT has adequate conference center/hotel coverage).

I was told that the iPad power converter and connection would also charge up my 3G iPhone but this turned out not to work.  Luckily, I brought along the power converter for the 3G iPhone by mistake and the cable connection between the power converter and iPad worked just fine for the iPhone.  Also the cable from the power adaptor to iPad is somewhat short, so bring the extension cord in order to be able to work with the iPad while its charging.

I ended up purchasing the Apple case for the iPad. I wanted to be able to have it upright portrait or landscape while I was typing on the keyboard, have it slant upward while using the soft keypad and otherwise lie flat. The Apple iPad case does all this without problem.

Microsoft Office documents

Word documents get converted into Pages documents pretty easily but you lose all change tracking, some of the formatting, and other esoteric stuff.  It’s probably ok for internal documents but I find putting together a final document using Pages still a problem. But  I must say I am a novice here.  Also converting Pages documents back into Word seems easy enough.

I have spent even less time with Numbers and Keynote but they seem adequate for minor stuffconvert .XLS and .PPT files to Numbers and Keynote files (but not back to .XLS and .PPT) and if I used them more probably ok for much more sophisticated work.  There are other applications that seem to provide better iPhone support for Microsoft Office editing but I have yet to try them on either the iPad or iPhone.  Also, beware that converting Numbers documents to Excel and Keynote to PowerPoint require Mac desktop versions of these programs.

Document availability is somewhat problematic.  I met one person who emailed work documents to themselves to solve this problem.  Email works ok as long as they don’t scroll out of iPad (iPad keeps the latest 200 emails max for any account which includes spam).  For this purpose, I used a not-so-well-known email address and emailed my current work documents to that account.  iTunes supports a way to copy files to and from the Mac or iPad which seems painless enough but the email interface worked just as well for me and I didn’t have to synch up to have the files transferred.

Beware of changing headers and footers in Pages and trying to alter them in Word once you get it back to the office.  It never worked for me.  I had to copy the text of the document to another fresh Word file and work the header/footers in that.

iPad security

Mac based passwords, logins, and security characteristics are a bit difficult and time-consumming to transfer to the iPad.  You can manually load them in for any websites and applications you need but there is no way to transfer a whole keychain from Mac to iPad.  As such, if you neglect to transfer security credentials for an important website to iPad your out of luck.  Now there are some apps that profess to being able to transfer and maintain keychains on the iPhone or the iPad but I haven’t tried them yet.

Other iPad security aspects are even more problematic.  The iPad can be setup to require entry of a 4 numeric character string to access it.  Another setting will erase the contents of the iPad after 10 failed logins attempts. And MobileMe probably supports some way to erase an iPad that’s out of your hands (it does this for iPhones so I would think the same service would be available for the iPad but I haven’t looked into it).

But despite all that, I don’t feel the iPad is as secure as the Macbook. For one thing, I encrypt the data on the Macbook and the system password can be alphanumeric and considerably longer than 4 characters.  In any case the harddrive can be removed from the Macbook but without the passkey, the data on the drive would be useless.  In contrast the SSD-Flash memory on the iPad could be pulled out and analyzed without any trouble whatsoever and with proper understanding of IOS storage formatting be read in the clear.

Also the fact that its smaller and lighter it could easily be forgotten and left behind making it more lose-able.  And it’s certainly more prone to being stolen because it’s smaller and lighter.


At this point I will probably  use the iPad for the upcoming VMworld conference just to see if it works as well the 2nd time as it did the first.  It’s only two full days, what can go wrong?